This essay was written for the Expository Writing program class “Poets 2 Rockstars.” It was published in Brainstorm vol. VIII (2016). Brainstorm is the University of Oklahoma Expository Writing Program’s journal of student writing. All Expo students are invited to submit an essay from their Expository Writing class for possible inclusion in Brainstorm. At the end of each term, a selection committee will choose 3-5 of these submissions and invite the authors to revise their essays for publication.
Hip-hop, as a cultural force, has grown to mirror the culture it lives in and represents a narrative that had never been represented before in America. Rap, one of the five elements of hip-hop culture defined by Afrika Bambaataa (Aubry) that involves rhyming over a beat, has been highly controversial. One subgenre of rap known as “gangsta” rap still comes under fire today for its hyper-masculine lyrics involving violence, drugs, alcohol, money, and misogyny. The epitome of the “gangsta” rapper was Tupac Shakur (1971–1996), whose poignant and authentic portrayal of life on the streets in the Bronx and Brooklyn earned him unprecedented fame and whose scandalous personal life led to quite a bit of controversy. Tupac’s take on “gangsta” rap defined the hip-hop music industry and popularized the genre with American audiences. Tupac’s music expressed “realness,” an idea prevalent within hip-hop that artists must stay authentic and “true to oneself” (Williams 4). Tupac’s music was also special in the way that audiences could identify with it, especially those who grew up in similarly low-status conditions. This group of listeners, though, was very focused in comparison with the wider audience of hip-hop listeners from all races and backgrounds. Tupac had listeners who enjoyed and sympathized with his music and lyrics, yet they never lived in situations from which they could directly relate to his lived experience. Recently, hip-hop’s sound has been evolving and changing to reflect a different attitude in America. The idea of authenticity plays a large role for hip-hop fans, and, as times have begun to change, the idea of “realness” has been challenged. What constitutes authentic hip-hop, and what does this portrayal mean in terms of hip-hop’s cultural force? The answer lies within the audience—as listeners recognize authenticity, we define the impact that hip-hop artists make and the influence they have on the genre.
This semester I have gotten involved with the Multicultural Engineering Program. It is a program put into place to connect multicultural engineering students, and engineering students in general, to each other, to alumni, and to job opportunities. I have really appreciated the Multicultural Engineering Program because I have gotten a chance to know other students from different backgrounds and cultures, something that is sometimes hard to find just in my classes. Through the program, I also got the chance to attend a Spring Break trip around Dallas and Houston which was very rewarding. We went to various companies and met with OU Multicultural Engineering Program alumni, who were all very nice and excited to show us their companies. We also got to meet Jim Gallogly, who is the new namesake of the Engineering College. My favorite part, though, was getting to know the other Multicultural Engineering students on the trip and meeting people who have similar values to me. I’m very glad I got involved with this organization and it has already given me many opportunities.
I really appreciate the Multicultural Engineering Program because it introduces me to other students with diverse backgrounds who are interested in the same thing as I am professionally. One thing I have noticed is that I tend to gravitate towards people with diverse backgrounds but similar interests as me, whereas I know some people tend to gravitate towards people with similar backgrounds as them but not necessarily similar interests or values. Not only has the Multicultural Engineering Program introduced me to students of diverse backgrounds, it has also introduced me to various diverse OU alumni who are doing really interesting things with their lives and careers. The most important part about the Multicultural Engineering Program to me is that it supports people from different backgrounds. It is often hard to feel support or guidance in engineering programs, which are typically dominated by white men, but the Multicultural Engineering Program encourages people from less privileged backgrounds and ensures they feel like they have a chance in the industry.
Video games have always been a big part of my life, from my childhood up until now. I grew up playing Nintendo 64 and GameBoy Advance, and many games from Japan had a big influence on my life and outlook on things as a kid. These games were presenting something that was a bit harder to find immediately surrounding me, and that was curiosity and imagination. The games I enjoyed were objectively bizarre, such as Pokemon, which involved capturing different monsters inspired by animals, and Kingdom Hearts, which combined different American Disney cartoons with a Japanese inspired plot focused around the battle between dark and light. These games, although coming from across the globe, shaped my sense of adventure and wonder. Now, I still continue to play video games created in different parts of the world, whether from Europe, Asia, or the Americas. One thing that has blown my mind in recent years is how the advancement of the Internet has allowed me to enjoy these games with people from all over the world. Games such as League of Legends and Mario Kart have allowed me to interact with and enjoy an experience with people from all around the world at the same time. I often wonder what the people in those other countries are doing and how their lives differ from mine culturally. It is an amazing phenomenon and one that I hope continues to become more and more globalized.
This semester I also attended the international bazaar. It was held on the South Oval and comprised of different international student organizations selling and showing various trinkets and cultural icons from their respective countries. It was exciting to see aspects of different culture like fashion or jewelry along with language and art in one small area where people from all kinds of different backgrounds have come together. Enjoying different cultures is something that I think that a lot of people here take for granted, as it was only possible for these cultures to have influence here due to the work that immigrants put in in order to become established citizens of the country. While I and many others don’t consider it daily, stepping back shows how incredible it is that people from so many different cultures, especially those that originated in an isolated setting across the globe, have traveled here and allowed themselves to be enjoyed by people who otherwise would have never had that experience.
This semester I attended the Asian Food Fair once again. This event combined my enjoyment of food with my interest in Asian culture and heritage. It was different this year as it was outside rather than inside, and so it was a nice day to enjoy the myriad of Asian food available at the fair. It is exciting to me that the campus is diverse enough to hold an Asian Food Fair with food from all different Asian countries. While each country’s cuisine is interesting and enjoyable on its own, it was an experience only available in a country such as the United States and a place such as OU where I could experience so many different Asian cuisines at the same time. It was also interesting to compare how Asian food is similar and dissimilar to foods from other cultures. For example, most Asian food is a protein cooked with a certain carb, usually rice or noodles, on the side and in a special sauce. This is not so different from cuisines of other cultures, but Asian food can be easily identified with the type of spices and sauces that are used in it that differentiate it from food from other countries.
This semester I spent a lot of time preparing an application to be a Fulbright International Scholar. It was a difficult process, mostly due to the fact that formation of a connection had to be done completely independently. The program I applied for was to conduct pediatric cancer research in the Netherlands. While there was not a severe language barrier, which made things much easier, it was difficult and intimidating to contact various successful scientists in another country. I ended up e-mailing the heads of various hospitals in order to ask if they knew of any principal investigators who would be willing to take on a Fulbright scholar. Additionally, it was hard to make a convincing case without knowing the kind of project I would be working on in addition to never having actually met the investigator I would be working with. However, I do believe that the topic I was applying for naturally contained people who were both passionate and excited to teach others about the research. That is what I found when I got into contact with a professor who was willing to take me on as a Fulbright scholar. She emphasized the importance of an international team and one that focuses heavily on teaching. I was excited to find someone willing to take me on despite not having exactly the kind of background that the research was related to. One thing that was also difficult about coordinating the application was the fact that it required several rounds of editing, which was difficult with the difference in time zone. I would usually have to work on the application at random times of the day in order to get it back to my mentor in a reasonable amount of time. However, whatever the outcome, I am glad that I applied as it gave me plenty of experience writing a proposal and coordinating with an international team.
This article was originally published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science: Leading clinical and laboratory ophthalmic and vision research Vol. 58 Issue 10, an Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)journal in August 2017.
Quantitative Histological Analyses of Retinal Thickness and Immunohistochemistry
A flamed needle was used to scorch the superior side of the cornea to demarcate the vertical meridian, and eyes were enucleated with part of the optic nerve still attached. Eyes were fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde for 24-hours, subsequently transferred into PBS, then dehydrated and paraffin-embedded for sectioning along the superior-inferior retinal axis. Sections were deparaffinized, stained with hematoxylin and eosin, and images were scanned at 403 magnification on a Ventana Coreo Au Slide Scanner (Tissue Sciences Facility, University of Nebraska Medical Center). Scanned images underwent quantitative analysis using Ventana image viewer software (Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., Tucson, AZ, USA). Beginning at the optic nerve head and extending into the retinal periphery in 250-lm increments, thickness of the total retina was measured.
One of my favorite hobbies is fashion. I have become very interested in style and how it relates to different subcultures. One of the biggest aspects of fashion is how global it has become. Before the internet, I would have known nothing about fashion except for what I see in my immediate area. However, due to the internet and travel, I have been able to experience fashion from all kinds of areas of the globe, and I have found some of my favorite designers and styles from places like Japan and Italy. Additionally, from my travels to both of those places, I have been able to see how those places draw inspiration from American fashion as well. It blew my mind that Levi’s in Europe cost ~$100, whereas they only cost around $50 here. It has also been really interesting to see how fashion, both in the US and in other countries, is related to different subcultures. It plays a very large role in the image that individuals want to put forth, and different subcultures tend to define how people dress. One interesting aspect of this is how traditional dress plays a role in how fashion is defined today, and how it will continue to grow and change in the future.
This semester, I have began to take a class called Middle Eastern music. Music is a big part of my life, and I have thought about it recently in terms of its impact as an international force. Music is enjoyed by people all around the world, and not restricted to any certain culture. Music is representative of different cultures all around the world, but the beauty of music is that it is not exclusive—it is a way for anyone from any culture to experience the culture of another group. Through the internet, nearly every genre of music is accessible to anyone who looks for it. I have had the opportunity to listen to music from all around the world due to this, and in addition to sonically enjoying the different sounds, I have gained a deeper appreciation for the cultural context in which the music I’m listening to comes from. Additionally, some of my favorite music is also the favorite music of people all around the world, and when attending big events like music festivals, it is really exciting seeing that people of all kinds of backgrounds enjoy the same music as me. Music has connected me with people all around the world, and I believe it will continue to be an important force in globalization.